No matter your industry, profession, or position, in our day-to-day we can be faced with mountains. Whether your metaphorical mountain is a flat tire on the way home from work, navigating a difficult conversation, or tackling something greater like the climate crisis or the gender pay gap, problem-solving is essential. For any country, corporation, or community, problem-solving gives space for opportunity and evolution towards a desired goal or outcome. Problem-solving is how we make sense of our environments and, more importantly, is a way for us to control our environments.
From diapers and pacifiers, we are taught to solve problems. When our bodies tell us we are hungry, we eat. When we are tired, we sleep. However, as we mature problem-solving may not seem as simple — especially when it comes to navigating relationships, work-place politics, and/or the complexities of the human experience. For whatever reason, as we further develop into our personal and professional lives we may not feel equipped to tackle the issues or problems we face. Depending on the size or the magnitude of the mountain, you may feel stuck or not know where to start. In this article, we provide some tips on problem-solving and how to face any issue or problem confidently no matter the size or magnitude of your mountain.
1. Accept that problems are inevitable. Embrace the journey to the solution. Believe you are equipped.
Often when we are faced with problems, there are a variety of ways to approach them. One way can be in frustration: things never go right. Another can be in defeat: I give up. Feelings of frustration, defeat, and sadness are valid — and feeling them is necessary. However, it’s important to understand that problems are going to happen and, most times, do not reflect on your personal or professional performance. Do not be discouraged. The first step to problem-solving is believing you are equipped to handle it. Moving through problems with grace could be detrimental to the outcome of the situation. Problems are opportunities for momentum towards a collective goal and present possibilities for collective improvement.
2. Step back. Take a moment of stillness.
Oftentimes, strong negative emotions can cloud rational or logical decision-making. Managing emotions effectively can be difficult for some and requires practice and knowing oneself well. Taking a step back from the situation may help clear up some of those clouds. It may even help you admire the mountain in a new light. You may take a look around and be proud of how far you’ve come — you may feel even excited for the journey ahead.
Stepping back, embracing problems, and seeing them as they are can help diffuse some of those clouds and open a path to a solution you may have not seen prior.
3. Shifting perspective: Problems vs. Situations/Challenges
When we identify something as a ‘problem,’ it’s easy to feel consumed by it. Your shoulders tense, your mind starts racing, and you may start feeling discomfort because things aren’t going as planned. Changing the way we engage with problems by thinking of them as challenges or obstacles instead, allows us to see these conditions as approachable and manageable. As Desmond Tutu said, “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
Once adopting a new perspective, we open the door for possibilities and opportunities to present themselves. What are you going to do? What can you do now? What’s the best way to do it?
4. Effective Problem Solving: Seeking the Right Solutions to the Right Situations
Not only is it important to approach problems with an open mind ready to tackle them, but it’s also important to ensure the right problem is being solved with the long term in mind, although this may vary depending on the pressure and urgency of the situation. Generally, the 6 steps to problem-solving are:
- Define the problem
- Identify all possible solutions
- Evaluate solutions
- Select solution
- Implement the chosen solution
- Monitor progress and make adjustments
During this process, it’s important to identify any limitations or restrictions to the possible solutions. Is there a budget constraint? Which solution will be faster? Which solution is the best long term?
Creativity reveals itself in stillness and stepping back. The ability to reevaluate the problem and come up with a variety of solutions within the limitations of resources help narrow down on the right solution.
The Harvard Business Review surveyed 106 executives across 91 companies from 17 countries on solving the right problems. They found that most companies have difficulty defining the problem, and believe that reframing the problem helps identify if there is a better problem to solve.
Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg identifies seven practices for effective reframing:
- Establish legitimacy
- Bring outsiders into the discussion
- Get people’s definitions in writing
- Ask what’s missing
- Consider multiple categories.
- Analyze positive exceptions.
- Question the objective.
Reframing problems is crucial to the problem-solving process because there is a common belief that most problems have one-single root problem and, Wedell-Wedellsborg argues that this belief can be misleading and “problems are typically multicausal and can be addressed in many ways.”
At Kingdom Branding, we firmly value creativity and creative approaches to solve problems. Our philosophy is engrafted in this phrase: creativity can be used as a force for good. we exist to solve problems around the world using our creativity. Our vision is to become the go-to creative partner globally leading client growth through creative strategy and execution.
If you would like to learn more, visit our website and work with us at Kingdom Branding!